How do Martians Raise Their Children?

Posted December 11th, 2014 at 6:08 pm (UTC-5)
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Dear Readers,

Cover of First Printing of A Princess of Mars

Our story in this week’s American Stories is the third part of A Princess of Mars, in which we learn about the Princess Dejah Thoris, a scientist from the city of Helium. She is captured by the green Martians, who will use her in their deadly games.

Sola, a green Martian warrior, explains to John Carter, the Earth human who is telling the story, how her mother died in those games. Sola’s mother broke the rules of her tribe by raising her daughter separately from those of the other children of the tribe. She explains that her tribe forbids children to know who their parents are and parents to know who their children are:

No, John Carter. My mother died in the games. That is a secret you must not tell anyone. The wall where Tars Tarkas found you held eggs that produce our young. All the children belong to the tribe. A mother never knows which child is hers when they come out of the egg.
My mother hid the egg that carried me. It was not placed within the walled area.  She kept her secret until after I was born.  But others discovered her secret and she was condemned to die in the games. She hid me among other children before she was captured. If this secret were learned, I too would die in the games.
Before she left me, my mother told me the name of my father. I alone keep that secret. It would mean death for him as well as me. My people are violent and cruel.

This concept struck me when I read it. I can understand the reason the tribe developed a practice like this: if all are responsible for each member of the tribe equally, they will share with others and not show favoritism for any one individual.

However, the tribe seems to be very warlike, and I wonder if this child-raising practice supports that kind of society. The tribe trains its members to fight against other groups of Martians. Their loyalty is to their own tribe, not to a family group. I guess that this practice – raising their young as members of the tribe but not of a family, means they will be more cruel and violent as warriors.

How would this work on Earth? Do you know of any cultures that raise children in groups, rather than as individuals? What effect does this have on the psychology of the child?

Write in the comments to share your ideas on the Martian practice of raising their children – and how this would work if it was done on Earth.

Looking forward to hearing from you,

Dr. Jill Robbins

#TravelThursday – Thanksgiving Traffic!

Posted November 26th, 2014 at 12:15 pm (UTC-5)
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TURKEY TRAFFIC

Hello, and happy #TravelThursday!

We are in the middle of one of the busiest travel weeks of the year here in the U.S., as people travel to see families and friends for the Thanksgiving holiday.

Nearly 44 million people travel during the Thanksgiving holiday, with about 90 percent traveling by car!

Here are a few common expressions used to describe all of the craziness that comes with traveling during one of the busiest times of year.

With so many cars on the roads, you’re bound to get stuck in traffic or encounter a traffic jam. This happens when traffic is at or near a standstill because of road construction, an accident, or just a very large number of vehicles on the road.

On the roads and highways, cars are bumper to bumper — an expression used to describe vehicles that are in a line one after another and are moving very slowly or not at all! The ‘bumper’ is a bar across the front or back of a car that reduces the damage if the car hits something.

Let’s hope you stay patient and don’t have road rage — anger caused by the stress involved in driving a car in difficult conditions.

Of course, airports, train stations, and bus stations are also packed with people. In fact, we can say people are packed like sardines — an expression that means many people are in a relatively small space. A sardine is a very small fish. You can buy many, many sardines in a small can, which is, of course, the inspiration for this common expression.

While all of the crowds and traffic can drive you crazy, it’s worth it to have the chance to spend the holidays with family and friends!

What are the busiest travel times in your country? Share a travel experience you have had during those times!

Part 5 of Special Report: Why He Chose to Leave this Good Land?

Posted November 21st, 2014 at 4:18 pm (UTC-5)
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Despite a string of military defeats and international isolation, Al-Shabab remains a visible force in parts of Somalia. In this September 2014 photo, Shabab militants staged a show of force in a town near Mogadishu, just before they were driven out. (VOA/Radio Al Furqaan)

Despite a string of military defeats and international isolation, Al-Shabab remains a visible force in parts of Somalia. In this September 2014 photo, Shabab militants staged a show of force in a town near Mogadishu, just before they were driven out. (VOA/Radio Al Furqaan)

Our colleagues at VOA have recently produced Why He Chose To Leave This Good Land? a  special report on the radicalization of some young Somali-Americans. This week, we have focused on one section of the article each day.

Please note that this report is not adapted to the Special English style, so it is more appropriate for advanced learners who use our site.

You can read the full report at http://projects.voanews.com/isis-recruit-somali-americans/ 

Today’s quote is from the final section, called, A lone wolf mission, you know the rest.

Several years ago, both Sheikh Omar and Sheikh Hassan endorsed the call for jihad, for people to join the fight against the Ethiopians, a call that Hassan maintains was justified.

“To wage jihad against Ethiopia when it invaded the country was obligatory, if there is doubt in anybody’s mind,” Hassan said at a VOA roundtable discussion September 16. “That was a legitimate jihad.” … Sheikh Hassan has denied that any worshippers from the Da’wah Center have ended up in Syria. If they did, he said, he and his mosque weren’t responsible.

“The door of my mosque is open for everyone. We don’t ask people when they come, we don’t ask when we open the door: ‘Are you from ISIS or al-Shabab?’ When they leave, we don’t ask them: ‘are you going to al-Shabab or are you going to ISIS?’ We cannot ask,” he told VOA. “Anybody can come. Those who come, as you say, one or two may go, we are not responsible and we don’t tell people to go and kill others. We tell the opposite.”

Our question for today is:

How are radical groups recruiting young Muslims in the United States, according to this report? What do you think the community should do to counter that recruitment?

Please give us your answer in the comment section below. I sincerely hope that you have increased your knowledge and expanded your vocabulary by reading this special report with me this week.

Looking forward to hearing from you,

Dr. Jill

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Words in This Story

crucible – n. a place or situation that forces people to change or make difficult decisions

hypocrisyn. the behavior of people who do things that they tell other people not to do; behavior that does not agree with what someone claims to believe or feel

ideology – n.  the set of ideas and beliefs of a group or political party

authoritativeadj. having the confident quality of someone who is respected or obeyed by other people

Part 4 of Special Report: Why He Chose to Leave this Good Land?

Posted November 20th, 2014 at 4:17 pm (UTC-5)
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Our colleagues at VOA have recently produced Why He Chose To Leave This Good Land? a  special report on the radicalization of some young Somali-Americans. This week, we are focusing on one section of the article each day.

Please note that this report is not adapted to the Special English style, so it is more appropriate for advanced learners who use our site.

Young people leaving the Islamic Da’waah Center in St. Paul, Minnesota

Young people leaving the Islamic Da’waah Center in St. Paul, Minnesota

You can read the full report at http://projects.voanews.com/isis-recruit-somali-americans/ 

Today’s quote is from the section called, Is it True You’re a Terrorist?

Last month, a Somali American man, Mohamed Osman Mohamud, was sentenced to 30 years in prison for trying to detonate a bomb at a holiday tree-lighting ceremony in Portland, Oregon, in November 2010.  He was arrested after his parents told the FBI they feared he was becoming radicalized. Later, parents and relatives complained of entrapment, saying Mohamud had been lured into the bomb plot by FBI agents intent on arresting a terrorist.

“They stop you when you’re walking home from your job, ‘So I hear your name is Mohammed and you’re going to that mosque. Is it true that you’re a terrorist?’” said Yassin Mohamed Abdullahi, a 14-year-old studying at the Da’waah Center. “It’s things like that you know that cause this spark of anger, hatred, mistrust in between the two parties … the Somalis and the FBI.”

Our question for today is:

According to the report, what are other complaints about the relationship of Muslim immigrants to U.S. law enforcement authorities? What do you think about this relationship?

Please give us your answer in the comment section below, and come back tomorrow for another question.

Looking forward to hearing from you,

Dr. Jill

____________________________________________________________________________

Words in This Story

harass – to annoy or bother (someone) in a constant or repeated way (harassment – state of being harassed)

surveillance - n. the act of carefully watching someone or something especially in order to prevent or detect a crime (surveilled - past tense verb form)

radicalizev. to cause (someone or something) to become more radical especially in politics

vigilant – carefully noticing problems or signs of danger

Part 3 of Special Report: Why He Chose To Leave This Good Land?

Posted November 19th, 2014 at 4:16 pm (UTC-5)
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Our colleagues at VOA have recently produced Why He Chose To Leave This Good Land? a  special report on the radicalization of some young Somali-Americans. This week, we are focusing on one section of the article each day.

Please note that this report is not adapted to the Special English style, so it is more appropriate for advanced learners who use our site.

Somali shoppers at a  specialized shopping mall in Minneapolis

Somali shoppers at a specialized shopping mall in Minneapolis

You can read the full report at http://projects.voanews.com/isis-recruit-somali-americans/ 

Today’s quote is from the second section, called State of failure:

Today’s quote is from the section called State of failure:

Like many Muslim groups in the United States, Somalis also faced hard suspicion after the September 11, 2001, attacks.

“Kids are being recruited. Yes, this is a fact. What are we going to do about it? We have to talk about the root causes that makes Somali kids vulnerable…. how do we fight poverty, bad school systems, the lack of opportunities,” Fartun Weli said. “The one thing we need to do is, if being Muslim can make us the worst victim in the United States, we have to make sure there are opportunities created for our community to exit poverty.”

For younger Somalis thrown into public school systems and dense neighborhoods like Minneapolis’ Cedar-Riverside, protection from outsiders came from gangs, like the “Somali Hot Boyz” and “Madhibaan with Attitude.”

While many Somalis have adapted slowly to American life, a sense of alienation persists for some, giving an opening for recruiters from Al-Shabab and Islamic State.

Our question for today is:

How does the report explain the connection between gang activity and radical militant recruitment? What do you think the authorities or community should do about the gang activity?

Please give us your answer in the comment section below, and come back tomorrow for another question.

Looking forward to hearing from you,

Dr. Jill

____________________________________________________________________________

Words in This Story

alienationn. feeling that one no longer belongs in a particular group, society, etc

criminal recordn. a known record of having been arrested in the past for committing a crime

vulnerableadj. easily hurt or harmed physically, mentally, or emotionally

common denominator n. something (such as a feature or quality) that is shared by all the members of a group of people or things

 

 

Part 2 of Special Report: Why He Chose to Leave this Good Land?

Posted November 18th, 2014 at 4:14 pm (UTC-5)
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We are following up on the VOA Special Report on the radicalization of Somali refugees in the US.

 

While many Somalis have adapted slowly to American life, a sense of alienation persists for some, giving an opening for recruiters from Al-Shabab and Islamic State. In this September 27, 2013, file photo, young women play basketball before the start of a rally by the Minneapolis Somali community against terrorism. (Reuters)

While many Somalis have adapted slowly to American life, a sense of alienation persists for some, giving an opening for recruiters from Al-Shabab and Islamic State. In this September 27, 2013, file photo, young women play basketball before the start of a rally by the Minneapolis Somali community against terrorism. (Reuters)

Our colleagues at VOA have recently produced Why He Chose To Leave This Good Land? a  special report on the radicalization of some young Somali-Americans. This week, we are focusing on one section of the article each day.

Please note that this report is not adapted to the Special English style, so it is more appropriate for advanced learners who use our site.

You can read the full report at http://projects.voanews.com/isis-recruit-somali-americans/ 

Today’s quote is from the second section, called State of failure:

With the [Somali] government’s collapse in 1991 and the country’s descent into chaos, Somalis fled en masse, to refugee camps in Kenya, Uganda, Ethiopia, Djibouti and Yemen, then onto Europe and North America. More than 1.5 million scattered around the world. More than 50,000 now live in the Minneapolis-St. Paul region… But Somali families have suffered disproportionately from unemployment, poverty, mental health problems and crime. Community activists estimate as many as 3,000 Somali men may be in the criminal justice system—under arrest, imprisoned, on parole. Some 20 percent of Somalis lack jobs. Another estimate based on U.S. Census data found only 50 percent of working-age Somalis had jobs.

Our question for today is:

What does the report say are some of the root causes of the problems Somali refugees have in the United States? What do you think should be done to correct these problems?

Please give us your answer in the comment section below, and come back tomorrow for another question.

Looking forward to hearing from you,

Dr. Jill

____________________________________________________________________________

Words in This Story

adaptationn.  the process of changing to fit some purpose or situation

disenfranchisementn. the state of feeling powerless; not having the rights of citizens such as the right to vote

jihad n. a war fought by Muslims to defend or spread their beliefs

infrastructuren. the basic equipment and structures (such as roads and bridges) that are needed for a country, region, or organization to function properly

Special Report: Why He Chose To Leave This Good Land?

Posted November 17th, 2014 at 5:08 pm (UTC-5)
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Minnesota's ethnic Somali population has mushroomed in the last two decades from a small group to more than 50,000. On September 27, 2013, hundreds, including Ilhan Issa, gathered at a solidarity rally in Minneapolis to protest terrorist attacks by Al-Shabab. (AP)

Minnesota’s ethnic Somali population has mushroomed in the last two decades from a small group to more than 50,000. On September 27, 2013, hundreds, including Ilhan Issa, gathered at a solidarity rally in Minneapolis to protest terrorist attacks by Al-Shabab. (AP)

Dear Readers,

Our colleagues at VOA have recently produced Why He Chose To Leave This Good Land? a  special report on the radicalization of some young Somali-Americans.

This week, VOA Learning English will post some quotes and ask for your comments on the article. Each day we will focus on one section of the article, to allow for in-depth reading and analysis.

Please note that this report is not adapted to the Special English style, so it is more appropriate for advanced learners who use our site. Each day we will give you a representative quote from the report and ask for your response.

You can read the full report at http://projects.voanews.com/isis-recruit-somali-americans/ 

Todays’ quote is from the introduction to the report:

When Dayib Ahmed Abdi and his family arrived in the United States in 1996, his son Abdifatah already had an independent streak… Late last year, Abdifatah, 29, abruptly left his families, and traveled to Britain, then Syria, joining the radical militants of the Islamic State as they began sweeping across parts of Syria and Iraq…He was the second American to die there.

“I was very sad when I heard it. ‘Why he would go to an Arab land?’ I asked myself,” Abdi told VOA. “They [Arab countries] don’t help us; instead the United States helped us. ‘Why he chose to leave this good land?’ I asked.”

Our question for today is:

Have you heard about refugee youth in the US and other countries being radicalized? Why do they leave their home to fight in Syria?

Please give us your comment below, and come back tomorrow for another question.

Looking forward to hearing from you,

Dr. Jill

___________________________________________________________________

Words in This Story (these words are in the first section of the Special Report)

mushroom  - v. to increase or develop very quickly

solidarityn. a feeling of unity between people who have the same interests, goals, etc.

phenomenonn. something (such as an interesting fact or event) that can be observed and studied and that typically is unusual or difficult to understand or explain fully

counterv. to do something in defense or in response to something

What would you do with a $1,000 inheritance?

Posted November 14th, 2014 at 4:37 pm (UTC-5)
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1000dollarbillOur American Stories episode for this week is the O. Henry story, “One Thousand Dollars.” The main character, Gillian,  (spoiler alert!) gets an inheritance, $1,000.00, from his rich uncle who has died. But he is not too happy, because he knows his uncle was very rich and had “over a half a million,” according to a friend.

So our hero goes around asking his friends and people he meets in the street, “What would you do with a thousand dollars?” He gets some wild answers, ranging from sheep ranching to buying diamonds, to starting a bar.  In contrast to his uncle’s great wealth and Gillian’s small inheritance, he learns that the people who lived with his uncle each got only ten dollars. This seems like a cruel joke.

1900s-ten-dollar-legal-tender-note

Read the story to find out what he decides to do.

After you’ve read the story, you can write a comment here to let me know how you would spend the $1,000. If you’d like, you can apply the current inflation rate. When this story was written, $1,000 would go pretty far. It would be $26,315.79 in 2014 dollars.

Looking forward to hearing from you!

Dr. Jill Robbins

#TravelThursday: Phrasal verbs all about travel!

Posted November 6th, 2014 at 2:44 pm (UTC-5)
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A mother, child, and grandmother speed up on a road in Sichuan province, China

Happy #TravelThursday, friends!

As you already know from studying English, phrasal verbs are everywhere!

Tomorrow on TALK2US, my friend Caty Weaver and I will be discussing phrasal verbs that are related to traveling.

I  thought I would give you a little preview here. Hopefully you can practice these phrasal verbs with us tomorrow (Friday) on Skype, from 1800 UTC to 1900 UTC. We’d love to hear from you!

Phrasal Verbs about Travel:

take off: when a plane leaves and begins to fly. (Example: My plane takes off at 5:45 p.m.)

set out: to start a trip or journey. (Example: I plan to set out at around 7 a.m. to avoid traffic)

held up: to be delayed, to be running late. (Example: I got held up going through security, so I almost missed my flight!)

pop in: to quickly visit a place. (Example: I might try to pop in to that new museum in the city).

check in: to arrive and register at a hotel or airport. (Example: You should check in to your flight at least one hour before it takes off).

stop over: to have a short visit in a place while on the way to your destination. (Example: I’m going to stop over in New York City on my way to Boston).

*Try to write a paragraph using some of these travel phrasal verbs. I’ll be glad to help you out if you aren’t quite sure what one means. And don’t forget to try out these phrasal verbs with us tomorrow on Skype!)

 

#TravelThursday – Wanderlust

Posted October 29th, 2014 at 5:12 pm (UTC-5)
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Sunday market in Hotan, Xinjiang, China

Sunday market in Hotan, Xinjiang, China

The word Wanderlust means a strong desire to travel and see the world. The term actually comes from the German words wandern (to hike) and lust (desire).

Wanderlust isn’t just about having a desire to travel and see famous landmarks. It goes deeper than that. It’s about wanting to experience, on a daily basis, a way of life that is unique to a city or region.

Do you have wanderlust?

For me, a strong sense of wanderlust led me to move to western China. I wanted to know a different part of the world. Wanderlust also led me to staying in China much longer than I had planned.

I must admit, I have felt a very strong sense of wanderlust while reading all of your comments on #TravelThursday blogs! Here are just a few of my favorite comments from readers describing their hometowns as well as their favorite places to visit.

I hope you enjoy them!

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giza pyramids, cairo, egypt

AP photo. Giza Pyramids, Cairo.

“Cairo is a historic city with plenty of ancient places to visit. However, Cairo is a modern city at the same time. The culture of Cairo is so rich because of the diversity of the people who have lived in the city. There are Muslims as a majority, and also Christians and Jews. So the city has Pharaonic, Islamic, Christian and Jewish ancient buildings. This richness in culture comes from the diversity of civilizations that emerged from the city in the past. The people of Cairo are so unique. Despite the difficulties they face in their lives and the economic state of their country, they have a good sense of humor. They laugh a lot and know how to enjoy their life and time. Despite the limitation in resources, they are masters at finding smart solutions for their problems.” -Aya Saad, Egypt

Alpine activities - Dolomites, north of Italy

AP photo, Dolomites

“Hello from Italy. I’m very lucky to live not far from the Alps and the Dolomites mountain range. I love to go hiking, but the best for me is enjoying the scenery from the top of the mountain. There aren’t a lot of people, so everything seems quiet and silent. I love autumn, when the air becomes cold, and everything is waiting for winter and show.” -Lisa Nuvoloni, Italy

“I live in Russia, north of the Arctic Circle. In my region, there aren’t big trees, only small ones. I like autumn because of all of the colorful trees. But this period is very short in my hometown, sadly. It’s my dream to see such bright and great forests.” -Zhanna Nord, Russia.

“My hometown is in Dong Nai Province. It is small; there are many fields for planting rice, and places for children to fly kites in the evening. The locals are very friendly, and we have a different lifestyle that sets us apart from other areas. Recently, my hometown has been changing rapidly because Vietnam’s economy is growing, as well as because of impacts of globalization. Anyway, I really miss my hometown. It is a memorable place and I will never forget many things I did together with my family and friends. I agree with you that “Some people may call it a flyover state, but I happy to call it home,” like you wrote. “There is no place like home.”    -Thaihuy Dang, Vietnam

AP photo, Hue palace

AP photo, Hue palace

“I would recommend you to visit my hometown, Hue City, Vietnam. It’s a small city, but very beautiful and peaceful, with a lot of delicious special dishes. This city is the old capital of Vietnam, and has become a travel destination for the rest of the world. Hue is renowned as a cultural and religious city of Vietnam. Welcome to Hue.”  -Thanh Xuan, Vietnam

 

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Confessions of an English Learner is a place for you to practice your writing and share the joys and pains of learning the language. We will post a weekly prompt, to give you a chance to practice your writing and to comment on others’ writing.

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